Storm in a Teacup
This was a show that Alison Duddle and I initially worked on together. It was 2005, and it was created for the ‘pPod’ tour (see above). I had the idea of basing it on a short Moomintroll story by Tove Jansson, ‘The Fillyjonk Who Believed in Disasters’. I had used this story before, in 1983, as an outdoor puppet show in Needles in a Candleflame. Alison and I worked together to create a version that ended up a long, long way from the original. However the idea of a nervous loner, who spent their whole life fearing the worst but, when a real disaster happens rising admirably to the challenge and as a consequence achieving a kind of release, still underpinned our story. Storm in a Teacup was set in a lighthouse, manned by a lonely and nervous lighthouse keeper. His only friend was an anarchic seagull, although he looked forward obsessively to the monthly visit by the launch. Desperately hoping to build a friendship with the seaman who delivered his supplies.
The original show was not much more than 20 minutes in length. It proved popular and we decided to develop it into something closer to being a full-length show for young people. This process proved surprisingly difficult, and it took a while to get it up to 50 minutes in length (via interim 30 and 40 minute versions). I designed and made the set; Alison made most of the puppets. At first we directed it together, but as version followed version, Alison took on most of the re-writing and re-directing. Sometimes it went out as a masked show, other times it was played unmasked. By the final tour it included a bit of both.
Despite this slightly messy evolution, Storm in a Teacup developed into a good small-scale production. It toured on and off for the next 5 or 6 years. Its popularity was helped by great performances from Jonny Quick (as the supply seaman) and Mark Whitaker (the lighthouse keeper) who both created memorably eccentric characters.
Red Riding Hood
We wanted to follow this with another children’s show. Alison was particularly keen on creating a series of shows based on traditional stories, and she decided on Red Riding Hood. One argument for doing this was that audiences were more likely to go to a show that they had heard of, than something new and unknown. Alison then wrote a treatment of Red Riding Hood that was atmospheric, quirky and constantly surprising. We decided that she should direct the production and make most of the puppets. I provided support as necessary, including designing and making the set. I also worked with Vanessa Card on several short filmed animations that were interspersed throughout the story.
Again, like Storm in a Teacup this turned out to be a very popular production. Also like Storm, it toured on and off for several years.